Anti-Pot Rhetoric Out of Step With California Voters

SACRAMENTO — As the state Republican Party searched for new ways to reach California’s young and independent-oriented electorate during its weekend convention outside of San Francisco, its main lieutenant governor candidate has chosen to run on an increasingly unpopular issue: opposing the decriminalization of marijuana.

At a press conference on Saturday, former party chairman Ron Nehring of San Diego argued that the advancing movement to decriminalize pot is endangering children: “Anyone who thinks that this is only going to be limited to adults needs to put the crack pipe down because that is simply not reality.”

Nehring seeks support from voters who don’t like Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s support for marijuana decriminalization. Oddly for a GOP convention, Nehring praised Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, who recently suggested that a stoned populace is bad for the state’s economy as he criticized legalization efforts similar to those in Washington and Colorado.

Nehring said he favors the approach taken by a group called Project SAM. Its “Smart Approaches to Marijuana” are short on specifics, but are mainly about keeping marijuana illegal. In a Huffington Post article last April, Nehring even criticized the use of medical marijuana, which has been legal in California since Prop. 215’s passage in 1996.

He’s got an uphill battle, not just with his candidacy but in gaining traction for this issue. A December Field poll found that most California voters, by a 56 percent to 39 percent margin, favor a proposed marijuana-legalization initiative, with opposition coming mainly from Republicans and self-identified conservatives. Voter preferences can change as campaigns heat up, of course, but attitudes are shifting in the legalization direction over time.

Supporters of legalization say it’s better to regulate it than to fight a drug war. Despite what the governor said at a district attorneys’ event in 2010, marijuana legalization will not help the Mexican cartels. The last thing drug lords want is legal competition.

In his Huffington Post piece, Newsom argued that “Californians must renew our push for common-sense marijuana policy by developing a state level regulatory system and lead the national effort to end draconian laws that favor incarceration over education.” But the latest effort to develop such a system is sponsored by the police chiefs’ association and the California League of Cities – two groups that are trying to clamp down on dispensaries. Authored by Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana), SB 1262 would give state authorities the power to license those facilities that sell medical pot, but it would also make it harder for patients to get doctor recommendations to buy it.

This seems counterproductive given fiscal realities. The state’s prison system is so overcrowded that officials are releasing inmates who have committed serious crimes. Cities are cutting their public-safety budgets as pension costs consume more dollars. One would think that police chiefs and city-government advocates would have other priorities.

Pot foes complain that it’s too easy for anyone to get a marijuana “card” for medical uses and that such drugs are harmful to kids for recreational uses. Legalization supporters say the question is not whether marijuana is good or bad, but whether maintaining a prohibition is a wise use of resources. Legalizing a substance does not necessarily mean that it will be more widely used, as Portugal’s drug-decriminalization efforts suggest.

Both sides of the debate insist that they want to downplay incarceration and focus on drug treatment, which might be a good place for a little common ground. But sensible solutions will no doubt get lost in a statewide political campaign where voters can expect sound-bites and hit mailers about crack pipes and potheads.

In 1983, conservative icon William F. Buckley argued that “The anti-marijuana campaign is a cancerous tissue of lies, undermining law enforcement, aggravating the drug problem, depriving the sick of needed help, and suckering well-intentioned conservatives and countless frightened parents.” On the political level, not much has changed after three decades. But voters seem to be moving beyond the scare tactics.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • seguin||

    You can always count on the Repubs to crash headlong into history.

    I guess there's something admirable in trying to headbutt reality into submission instead of just pretending that it doesn't exist (like progs), but it's still dumb as hell.

  • ||

    It's totally unsurprising that some politicians are going to desperately grab on to the drug prohibition plank as they're trying to keep their heads above water. Politicians are nothing if not venal, repulsive opportunists, and if they're losing or not doing well in the polls, and their opponent is pro-legalization or silent on the issue, some will take it up in the pathetic hopes that a past standby for politicians will be enough to save them. I mean, it worked in the past, right?

    This will get less and less common as it fails to help floundering politicians.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    Californians must renew our push for common-sense marijuana policy

    I, CampingInYourPark, herafter and forevermore, disregard any statement that incorporates the phrase "common-sense" and disavow the fucktwit that uses it

  • Rich||

    Now, *that* is a common-sense position.

  • Almanian!||

    Hey, the Stoopid Party® gonna stoopid, yo

  • ace_m82||

    I think that blaming the party for the stupidity of these people is unkind to the party. You can't blame your party for your own stupid/evil votes or words.

    We should make them own their own opinions. I'm sure they're all for "personal responsibility", right?

  • Almanian!||

    derp

    TEAM RED does this so often, and endorses these people, who ARE the party. So, no, I'm not gonna give THE TEAM a pass.

    The people ARE the TEAM.

    teh stoopid teemz

  • ace_m82||

    I'm just saying the person is responsible for their actions.

    The party does stupid things, due to the majority acting stupid. That doesn't excuse the individuals.

    Immediately blaming the party for the members acting stupid almost sounds like an attempt to take their guilt away. "I couldn't help it; I belong to the stupid party."

  • perlhaqr||

    I don't think it's intended as an excuse as much as just a long-suffering sigh.

  • Hugh Akston||

    It's nice that both parties are working together to keep the CA state Republicans irrelevant.

  • perlhaqr||

    As though they need any help. Maybe it's some kind of perverse "We're going to lose anyway, we might as well play as poorly as possible and see if we can really lose!" frustration flail?

  • Sevo||

    You'd think that the GOP in CA could look around and find plenty of issues that resonate with the voters. Hell, even the Chron is griping about the pension costs.
    But no. There are two issues of importance:
    1) What toilet Johnny or Janey pees in
    2) REEFER MADNESS!
    It's a one-party state since whoever makes the punch at GOP gatherings spikes it heavily with stupid.

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    Waiting for PM to come here and ramble about how his belief in Reefer Madness nonsense can't be questioned because he thinks it should be legal and how most pot legalization advocates are enemies of liberty. If it were the 30s he would accuse all consumers of alcohol of being leftists while opposing alcohol prohibition.

    Just because you think something should be legal doesn't mean you're rational.

    And to legalization advocates who think medical marijuana is some sort of trojan horse I would be dead without medicinal use of pot, and my conservative doctor at the time was caught running a crack house.

  • EDG reppin' LBC||

    Are you currently high?

  • CentristClassicalLiberal||

    on caffeine and sugar

  • ||

    I'm high all right, but not on false drugs. I'm high on the real thing.

  • Brandon||

    PM?

  • Almanian!||

    Mmmm....Links....

  • Duncan20903||

    What are you talking about? It's the prohibitionists who think that protecting medicinal cannabis patients from arrest is some kind of "trojan horse." The concept is just plain stupid.

    I like to ask them, if medicinal use being tolerated is going to lead to re-legalization of use for pleasure, when may I expect to see cocaine and methamphetamine for sale at the 7-11?

  • gaoxiaen||

    Not soon enough.

  • ||

    Wait, somebody explain these "frightful perversions" that dope is going to avalanche me into. I may have to take up smoking...

    This is both predictable and depressing. The arguments against some kind of legalization of pot are all retarded and the reasonable concerns attached to legalization (more people might smoke if it's legal!?) are pretty minor compared to the potential benefit of taking a revenue stream away from the larger black market providers.

  • Brett L||

    I hear it involve vaginas, Jesse. That's all I can say.

  • ||

    Oh...that's...disappointing.

    *puts away Margaret Thatcher mask, beeswax candles and rubber chicken*

    I'll be somewhere other than my bunk.

  • Sevo||

    Just to show that Dems can give the GOP a run for stupid:

    "Jerry Brown said he is not sure legalizing pot is a good idea in his state because the country could lose its competitive edge if too many people are getting stoned."
    http://www.politico.com/story/.....04143.html

  • bassjoe||

    I live in California. The Republican Party of California doesn't care about freedom other than freedom from certain taxes. It's extremely pro-"law and order" and anti-marijuana (how that exactly squares with less taxation is something I can't wrap my head around) and still very anti-gay marriage. It still is stuck in an early-1990s rhetorical mindset when it comes to the Latino community.

    The Party shot itself in the foot for decades in 1994, will not recover for a very long time and, meanwhile, is still only catering to a rump base of drug warrior statists, anti-gay and anti-Latino bigots, religious fundamentalists and libertarians who insist they are choosing the "best of two evils".

    It honestly doesn't matter what a Republican Lt. Gov. candidate thinks about anything. The Party has managed to paint itself very well into a corner and the chances of winning a major statewide office this year are extremely slim. The Party could not even beat the corrupt SF District Attorney for the Attorney General position in 2010, while running the extremely effective and popular DA from Los Angeles.

    (I'm not saying the Dems are any better. They have created a breathtakingly inefficient and maddeningly punitive regulatory state on multiple levels run by union-protected incompetents and favor-seekers.)

  • Brandon Magoon||

    After how they treated Ron Paul and his supporters I doubt they are catering to libertarians.

  • Duncan20903||

    Assertions:
    San Francisco is very arguably the cannabis capital of the United States.

    California voters approved the Compassionate Use Act (CUA, Prop 215) on Election Day 1996. The foaming at the mouth crowd predicted carnage, mayhem and the widespread skyrocketing of the rate of youth use of cannabis as a result.

    In 1996 Dan Lundgren, the Republican Attorney General lost his very vocal and public argument with Zonker Harris. Mr. Harris is one of Michael Doonesbury's more interesting acquaintances.

    The only part of "the children" that the self serving prohibitionist parasites and their sycophants care about is protecting their value as political pawns and as a spice to make their hysterical rhetoric even more hysterical.

    The CDC says that at least in San Francisco that the prohibitionists were wrong, wrong wrong:

    Ever used marijuana one or more times (during their life)
    1997 33.0%
    2011 30.1%

    Tried marijuana for the first time before age 13
    1997 8.6%
    2011 8.3%

    Used marijuana one or more times (during the 30 days before the survey)
    1997 17.1%
    2011 17.9%

    Used marijuana on school property one or more times (during the 30 days before the survey)
    1997 6.7%
    2011 6.7%

    http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/youth.....ULT&SO=ASC

  • mrvco||

    Speaking as a Colorado resident, legalization just hasn't been a big deal. Possession and growing your own became legal the day the election was certified and most people that aren't into pot never realized it during 2013.

    I'd much rather have people getting high and eating pizza on the couch watching animal channel than people getting drunk, driving and doing all the other destructive crap that drunk people always insist on doing when drunk.

  • Truth Addict||

    So, what is this "danger to the children" they are talking about? NEWS FLASH. The children have been smoking pot for decades and not a single one of them has died from it. However, some -- Barack Obama, Geo. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, ME, and countless MILLIONS others -- have had pretty darn successful lives despite the fact that we smoked like freight trains in our youth. Here's a compromise -- I'll put my "crack pipe" down when Mr. Nehring puts his whiskey bottle down.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement